New Delhi: The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way children are being educated. The lockdown has pushed learning from schools into homes. From virtual classrooms to handing out assignments over WhatsApp, technology has played a major role in ensuring that education remains unaffected during this crisis. While this may be true for the privileged class, the reality is quite different for the poor and underprivileged. The lockdown has effectively put a halt on the education of children from rural areas, and low-income households in cities. To ensure that the education of the street children remains unaffected during the pandemic, Wishes and Blessings NGO has converted its ‘Street to School’ programme to the online mode from this month.
“When we opened centres after a time gap of eight months in January 2021, we realised that our kids living on the streets and slums had already forgotten basic concepts; book knowledge was far behind,” says Dr Geetanjali Chopra, Founder & President of Wishes and Blessings NGO.
“Last year when the pandemic hit, all our centres had to abruptly go on hold and there wasn’t any way to continue the education for our kids. This year again, due to the rise in cases the centres had to be shut, however, we decided to continue the training, guidance and counselling through online modes. The shift was executed keeping in mind the need to ensure that the education of these children should continue as smoothly as possible, even during the pandemic,” adds Dr Chopra.
The NGO, which operates its day care centres in Okhla and Vasant Vihar, Delhi enrolled the children for online education and divided them into groups of 3 on the basis of age, and each group was assigned a teacher in charge. Currently, modules are shared via Whatsapp groups and cover all formal subjects as well as art and craft activities. The teachers of Wishes and Blessings share videos explaining the lessons and then worksheets are assigned to the children, which the students fill in and then send back via the groups. “In cases where children do not have access to the internet, the questions are either shared by children who do have access, or sit in groups and complete the assignments together”, she further added.
The Wishes and Blessings team coordinates with the teachers to formulate educational modules that ensure that the children are engaged while studying. This involves continuously adapting and evolving the curriculum to capture the students’ attention. At the same time, the teachers are undergoing training of their own so that they are equipped to cater to the needs of their students. The teachers also ensure to hold one-on-one sessions with children who require additional guidance and counselling during these tough times, and support them emotionally as well.
Currently, there are 85 children who are being guided towards brighter futures through the ‘Street to School’ Programme. They primarily belong to two locations: Vasant Vihar and Okhla, Delhi.
Wishes and Blessings NGO launched the Street to School programme through its physical centres in Delhi and NCR in the year 2016 and has been able to successfully send its children to formal schools. The students have excelled not only in academics but have proven their capabilities in other extracurricular activities as well.